Aggression and sexual behaviour are big no nos at the Christmas work function, while doing wheelies around the work yard, pushing someone into a swimming pool or passing out in the bathroom can lead to misconduct rules being applied.
In a study of 1000 people, carried out last year, a University of Otago survey showed that while most people experienced no significant problems from alcohol availability at work events, and indicated that employees generally enjoyed alcohol in responsible moderation around managers and workmates, there were some common pitfalls.
Twenty per cent of employee respondents had seen festivities fall foul when staff over-indulged at work events, while 25 per cent of employer respondents reported dealing with inappropriate behaviour at work functions.
Professor Ian McAndrew from the Department of Management at Otago's Business School, says the two damaging kinds of behaviours at works functions were aggression and sexual behaviour or harassment.
"We have recorded instances where there has been damage to property at the workplace or at hospitality venues, physical or emotional injury... through either aggressive or sexually-oriented behaviours," he said.
The bad behaviour can see people lose their jobs, be forced into mediation because of a grievance or even escalating to the Employment Court.
"Alcohol at work functions has damaged careers and relationships," Prof McAndrew said.
Sometimes general drunken rowdiness degenerated into the more offensive, including unacceptable language, breaking things, vomiting, or smoking in non-smoking facilities. It sometimes meant driving home drunk.
The key for employers, Prof McAndrew said, was to be responsible hosts, provide a safe environment and establish ground rules, while employees need to realise that a work function still means workplace practices are in place, such as misconduct rules.